In Kamila Sitwell’s soon to be published ‘Bespoke. How to radically grow your bar and restaurant business through personalisation’ she discusses what customisation actually means for the industry and what restaurant owners need to do to ensure that they are not left behind.
“A mass-market, standardised approach to hospitality and foodservice with its cookie-cutter approach to outlets’ design, people development and menu strategy is not working for your guests anymore. Why? Because modern consumers are dissatisfied with uniformity and yearn for empowerment and self-expression. ‘I’ll have it my way’ is more than a slogan in the hospitality industry, it’s a recognition of the guests’ innate need to exert control over the environment and more importantly, what they put in their bodies.”
Customisation in the restaurant and bar trades has firmly arrived and it’s here to stay. Consumers are increasingly taking control of what they consume as they analyse menus in great detail, seeking clarity of the ingredients and what this means in terms of nutrition, their calorie and sugar intake. According to MCA, the UK’s leading provider of eating and drinking out market intelligence, over 30% of consumers customised their last meal out whilst 55% believed that customisation is an essential element when it comes to making their choice.
“It seems that, no matter what’s included on the menu, a growing number of consumers want to pick and choose or to mix and match because that fits their belief that they, not the proprietor, know what suits them best. What was once considered a passive activity (dining or eating out) is fast becoming a collaborative effort, with the consumer having the upper hand. It’s no longer in their nature to compromise on their tastes, values or beliefs.”
Responding to the trend in consumer habits is one of the biggest challenges that traditional bar and restaurant owners face in order to remain competitive and in attracting repeat custom. Overwhelming as this might sound, in implementing change will be proof that your business is paying close attention to the specific needs of the consumer.
Customisation, personalisation, bespoke and tailored experiences– call it what you will, these all describe the trend which is an ever-present and growing part of 21st century life. The very pervasiveness of customisation makes the trend what it is today: an expectation. And one that your guests simply won’t do without. Your guests are in control, they have more choices than ever before, and they command the conversation. Your business just became personal.
The good news is that the hospitality business has always been a reactive one, be that catering to new diet fads, serving up popular new ingredients, cooking techniques, even to serving food on the latest fashionable slate or board. However, what it’s least likely to acknowledge is that increasingly the consumer’s relationship with restaurant food is descending into something more akin to love-hate. Whereas at the turn of the century, the British would meekly accept almost anything that was suggested on the menu when no one would dare request any variation, no matter if that was only holding off the mushrooms or asking for a sauce on the side. More recently, interest created by TV programmes and chefs presentation skills has encouraged people to take greater control over their diets and what they’re eating and drinking.
As the hospitality industry reacts to changing dietary trends (such as the speed that vegan or flexitarian dishes have become popular) restaurants need to up their game in providing for the discerning customer.
“Millennials in particular, consider themselves to be individuals with unique needs and taste preferences, especially in a more culturally rich and diverse UK than in any other time. They pride themselves on more adventurous palates, and they actively seek out ethnic and authentic flavours.
In addition, they’re attracted to a variety of ingredients they can then tailor their meals or drinks – more/less spicy, herby, fruity or floral flavours, adding or subtracting a variety of garnishes for drinks, edible flowers, cumquats, botanicals etc. In fact, 30% of Young Millennials say that the ability to customise their meal or drink is an important factor when considering which restaurant to visit. For the “no one is quite like me” demographic, continually offering new ways to customise excites them. It seems like more and more customers think alike, too. Therefore, it’s in brands’ interest to take that mind-set on board in order to be seen as innovative and appealing.”
The above is a short extract from Kamila Sitwell’s upcoming book “Bespoke. How to radically grow your bar and restaurant business through personalisation” which will be available on Amazon in January 2019.
Bespoke will help raise your game in the competitive world of hospitality, providing you with fresh insights needed to steer a course to your customers delight, loyalty and ultimately business success.